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HMS Montrose Captures $8.5 Million Bahrain Cannabis Haul

HMS Montrose, a British Navy frigate, captured an illicit haul of multimillion-dollars of hashish in Bahrain this weekend. This marks the third and ninth drug seizures this year by crew members, respectively. It also marks the nineth since the ship started its extended area in the region three years ago. Over this period, the Montrose is believed to have seized more than $125million. This haul is the largest of them all—it represents the largest bust in about ten years.

Trade Hub: A global transit hub

If you don’t know the geography of the Gulf of Oman (or the Gulf of Oman), this is the water neck that allows the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea to flow into each other. Pakistan lies at the Gulf’s upper mouth. Despite the country’s cannabis reform, it is still an important transit country for international drug trade.

Pakistan is bordered to the east by Iran and Afghanistan, and to the west by China. It also shares a 500-mile border to China.

Pakistan has an extremely strict policy against drugs and it imports most of the illicit cannabis and hash through its borders. However, Pakistan has also adopted a zero-drug policy which still includes high THC cannabis. UN data from 2020 suggests that 40% of illegal heroin and hashish sent through Pakistan is from the country’s northern neighbour. It is also an important transit point for illegal heroin shipment into China.

International Silk Cannabis Road

In many different ways, heroin and hash leave Pakistan. If the drugs are sent, they will travel northward towards the Persian Gulf. Once there, the heroin and hash then travel by land to reach the Arab countries. They can be transferred by ship again at the Mediterranean. Most drugs that are shipped to Africa from the south through the Persian Sea end up getting transferred via Tanzania. They then tend to travel overland to Nigeria via the continent, eventually heading for North America and Europe.

When it comes to illicit drug trading in this region of the globe, there is strong connection between jihadism (and organized crime). As of last year, the Taliban also appeared to be shifting course when it came to the cannabis conversation—namely seeing it as a potential legal export crop that could bring in much-needed foreign currency after the overthrow of the secular government.

Although legal exports are now prohibited due to the Taliban’s takeover, this does not stop them from exploiting existing illicit opportunities.

Bahraini and Regional Cannabis Legalization

Although hemp and cannabis have been around for a long time in this region of the globe, they were illegalized by both American and British influences. The Control of Narcotics Substance Act of 1997 made it illegal in Pakistan to grow, make, produce, extract, prepare or possess cannabis. 

However, this hasn’t stopped Taliban groups from using cannabis to both protest its misuse and sell it illicitly in order to fund their existence.

Thanks to the global legalization of hemp in the second decade, things have changed. The federal government has approved legalization for hemp production as of September 2020. Because of the growing global demand for hemp legalization and the potential billion-dollar export market that Pakistani officials believed was possible, the federal government changed its policy.

The seizure and purchase of cannabis products or plants is made more challenging by this. In December last year, the first legally harvested hemp was made. A national cannabis policy was promised by Pakistan’s Minister of Science and Technology in October.

If you look beyond Navy interdiction as the last and most effective method to prevent criminals profiting off the black-market drug trade in Pakistan, then the proof is that normalization of cannabis in Pakistan may be the best.